The key points of EU foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East and Turkey’s dual role
On May 15, 2020, EU ministers of foreign affairs held a video conference, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell releasing a statement warning Turkey to refrain from drillings in Cyprus territorial water, but much was not told.
Ministers first had a broad conversation on the Middle East Peace Process in the background of the formation of a new government in Israel. Ministers expressed their keenness to work comprehensively and fruitfully with the new government; nevertheless, they reiterated their support for a negotiated two-state solution.
“We had a very good and important discussion on the Middle East Peace Process. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a priority and in the strategic interest of the European Union. We stand ready to help.”Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Foreign affairs ministers next examined the Southern Neighborhood and situation in the broader Middle East, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this perspective, ministers voiced their apprehension about the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic. They agreed that the present crisis is an opportunity to consider the EU’s relations with the region in the medium and long term.
The EU foreign ministers agreed on a statement about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, condemning the Turkish drilling operation within Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
“Recalling the European Council Conclusions of March 2018, the EU condemns the escalation of Turkey’s violations of Greek national airspace, including overflights of inhabited areas, and territorial sea, in violation of international law.
Turkey should avoid making threats and taking actions that damage good neighbourly relations. It should instead respect the international law, including the law of the sea, and in particular the sovereignty of all EU Member States over their territorial sea as well as all their sovereign rights in their maritime zones, including those generated by islands, as well as refrain from violating the sovereignty of EU Member States over their air space.
All members of the international community must abide by these principles and should refrain from any actions undermining regional stability and security”.Statement of the EU Foreign Ministers on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean
The EU foreign ministers didn’t mention Greece, which is in disagreement with Turkey since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the following 1983 self-declared independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In November 2019, the signature of a MOU between Turkey and the Libyan UN-recognized government about the identification of national sea waters further inflamed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The EU is in a difficult situation; on the one hand, it ostensibly stands with Greece and Cyprus, both EU member states, to protect their rights and sovereignty. On the other hand, Turkey might sooner or later change its role in the Mediterranean tragedy: from partaker in the Syrian and Libyan civil wars to necessary ally to resolve troubles in the EU’s backyard.
Moreover, yesterday NATO’s Secretary General Stoltenberg’s chatted with Turkish president Erdogan about NATO’s likely support to Libyan GNA government. Guess which NATO’s state would join a possible peacekeeping force on request of Tripoli’s government?
Finally, ministers were briefed about the arrangements for the next meetings. On 26 May, the European Union and Spain will cochair a donor pledging Video Conference for the Venezuela displacement crisis. The fourth Brussels Conference will be held on 30 June in a virtual format and will examine the Future of Syria and the Region.